Gentle Sleep Coaching with Cassidy Mason
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Meg: Welcome back everybody. I’m Meg Faure, I’m an occupational therapist and I am absolutely passionate about the mum and baby journey in the early days. I think it’s a very precious time of life, but I know that it’s absolutely fraught with anxiety concerns and lots of hiccups along the way. And so each week on my podcast, we actually talk to real moms, moms who are at the rock face, going through situations with their little ones, and we talk about what they go through, the highs and lows. And we bring to those situations. And for most we end up chatting to Cassidy and we’ve actually tracked her and her little baby Max now for many weeks. And he is over four months old now. And nearly actually, how old is he Cass?
Cass: Oh, well he’s 16 weeks. He was the 27th. So he’s got a few days till he is four months, but he’s 16 weeks today or two days ago.
Meg: Incredible. So like really nearly four months old. And it’s been an incredible journey with some real concerns around his health initially and thinking back, I mean, he had situations where he had thrush and we’ve had some sleep issues. He went through that stage that all babies go through where they don’t love to feed because they’re so distractible. And now, we’re moving on towards the four month period where we are going to start to think about solids and new developments. And so Cass, we really, really welcome you back. Thank you for joining us again.
Cass: Well, thank you. Yeah, he had his 16 week vaccinations this week and then at the end they said he didn’t need his next ones for a year, until he was a year old. And it was the best news because those vaccinations are so dramatic.
Meg: So hard. Yeah, and of course, vaccinations, for those listening are different worldwide. So Cassidy lives in the UK, which means that, yeah, she’ll have her four months vaccines or 16 week vaccines and then nothing till a year. And of course, if you live in South Africa, you’ll be having lots more in between those. It just depends on where you base, but Cass, yeah, super for Max, he doesn’t have another vaccine for a while.
Cass: Well, I think more so super for me. He forgets very quickly. I start crying even as I’m walking into the doctor’s, let alone…. so yeah, I’m very mad.
Meg: Of course. Yeah, vaccines, haven’t been a fun part. And we dealt with that in one of our early episodes, the whole kind of controversy around those who choose not to vaccinate and those who do. And then of course the emotional side that mums go through. So looking back at the week, that’s passed, what has been the big positives and, or the highs and lows for you this week?
Cass: So for me, one of the biggest things is his feeding is back to normal. He’s feeding really well. He’s even at sometimes doing two boobs. It’s very relaxed. It’s very calm, you know, compared to what we were having, where it was only ever one boob. And even then that could be a bit of a struggle. And of course that was causing concerns around his weight, which we discussed last week. So we have the doctor’s appointment to check in with his weight next week. But his feeding almost from sort of the day after we recorded last week has really improved. So that’s been amazing for me because it is a real, even though you tell yourself it’s fine, he looks happy, he’s healthy. Everything else about him he’s still going….You know, he’s still pooing, he’s got lots of wet nappies, all the things you tell yourself, it’s still just horrible when they are not feeding as they were, or it’s a battle, especially breastfeeding, I think because you don’t know how much they’re taking and things like that. But even with bottles, it’s just horrible because if they’re not going to take it, there’s nothing you feel you can do. And so that’s been a real highlight of my week.
But he’s also rolled from his back, well, he’s very easily rolling from his back into his side. He sort of lifts his legs up and rolls over, but he’s very nearly going all the way to his tummy as well. So in fact, he just, if he holds your finger, he’ll go over to his tummy, you don’t really need to pull him. He just needs to hold you. So that’s really it’s exciting, but it also means he’s on the move.
Meg: He is, he absolutely is. And you know, I mean, when moms think about rolling, rolling is such an important milestone. And the reason is that it is a very important foundation for crawling later up. And so right when Max was very little, we had an episode where we spoke about tummy time and the importance of actually developing those back muscles. And then later on, I actually heard the episode just the other day, where we talked about how he was doing a lot of kicking of his little kickboard at the end of his play mats, and that of course was working his tummy muscles. And with the working of those tummy muscles and those back muscles, then give you the foundation to develop rotation. And that’s what he’s doing now. That’s kind of turning over. So it’s really amazing that he’s starting to roll and it’s a spot on age where they would start rolling and yeah, so, no leaving him on the middle of the bed anymore.
Cass: No, I know. We’ve just moved back to our home. And when we left, he was, you know, still very….Well, I mean, it was over a month ago, so he was in a very different stage developmentally and we got back and my husband put him on his changing mat, which is on a changing station, on a chest of drawers. And my husband said, well, there’s no turning our back anymore for this because when he was the newborn, you know, you could just sort of quickly put something in the nappy bin, or something like that. But now you cannot take your eyes off him at all. He is on the move
Meg: Yeah, that’s brilliant. Well, the fact that he’s rolling now is brilliant because he’s crossing the Midland and that means that he’s going to crawl later on and that’s really, really super news for you guys. Excellent.
Cass: Yeah, it’s really exciting.
Meg: It’s interesting. It’s quite, it’s actually a very variable milestone and that’s why I create some anxiety for mums because some babies roll earlier than others and some actually roll really late, closer to six months and some actually don’t roll. In other words, they don’t draw in their shoulders and their hips. They actually roll like a log. And so little ones do it all differently, but it is a very important milestone. So, well done, Max.
Cass: Is there…Because he’s not doing it from his tummy, he’s only doing it from his back at the moment, which he kind of uses his legs to help. And he lifts them up and turns them to the side.
Meg: Yeah. So babies do crawl; some babies crawl tummy to back first, some crawl back to tummy first, but running from their back to their tummy is somewhat more common to do first. So that would be fairly typical. And some babies only do it one way for a very long period of time. And it kind of depends on which muscles they’ve started to develop more of their back or their tummy muscles.
Cass: Okay. Yeah. So he’s just doing the back at the moment. But another sort of thing that I was going to mention, he’s now got a nanny, which has been quite hard, but the great thing is, and we’ll talk about the hard side of it, but the great thing is, of course for that period of time that he’s with a nanny, she is solely dedicated to him and he therefore is getting absolutely dedicated time with things like tummy time and all of the different exercises and developmental things as well, which I try to build in as much as possible in the day. But you know, sometimes it’s not so easy when you’ve got a lot going on.
Meg: Yeah, and there’s a lot to be said for a good nanny. And I think, you know, it brings up a whole conversation around and it happens very often at about four months when moms either need to return to work or some countries, their maternity leaves up. I know that the UK isn’t, but certainly in South Africa, that would be a typical time when maternity leave would end and then we’ve got to choose nannies. And the choosing of nannies is quite an interesting thing. You know, I always say, first of all, they need to be absolutely passionate about the age group. So if you’ve got a nanny for a four month old, she needs to love babies. And likewise, if you are only doing it as a toddler, then they’ve got to really be passionate about toddlers. They also need to have some training. And I think that’s really important and specifically first aid training.
So those are the two things that I would really look at is, is how passionate are there about the age group. And then secondly, do they have first aid training?
And then I often get asked, is it preferable to have my baby with a day mom with a whole lot of babies or in a crèche or with a nanny. And I would always go for a nanny. And the reason for that is that that primary maternal and then primary suppose caregiver relationship is very, very important. And so you’re more likely to get one-on-one or really focus to teach that looks at your baby signals if they’re with a nanny. So that is my preference, definitely.
Cass: Yeah. And I think for us as well, because he’s so young, knowing that there’s just somebody who’s completely dedicated to all of his needs and everything that he wants made it a lot easier, but it’s still, I have to say, the days leading up to the first day with the nanny, as much as I knew, she was wonderful, I found that really, really hard. I sort of was going to bed at night the night before, especially just thinking I am dreading tomorrow because it was the first time I was leaving him with somebody that wasn’t either his daddy or his granny or, you know, his grandpa or something, you know, immediate family. And it was really, really tough, and I was actually on my way driving to a meeting just after I’d left him, and there was a car, we call him maxi move and there was a car removals truck in front of us that had Maxi Mover written on the back, and I just bust out crying, but it is really tough.
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Meg: So, you know, a couple of things that I often said to mom is because that’s very common that you feel some guilt, some grief, some concern, some terror and what should you do about it? So first of all, step number one is to choose the right person, which I know you’ve gone through the process and I just mentioned what I would be going through. But the second thing is to actually prepare, you know, kind of lay the groundwork for her. So it’s things like knowing what his routine looks like, and that’s where the app can really come in really, really handy because you can write down approximately what times you know that he’s going to wake and feed throughout the day, or sleep and feed throughout the day. And that’s very useful for her and what we are building into the app very soon is multi user functionality so she would actually be able to log his sleeps and his feeds for you.
So those would be a number one in terms of routine, very important. And the other thing that’s quite handy to do is to actually record his signals for her. So to say to her, you know, when he does this, it usually means that, because it’s taken you four months to learn Max’s signals and you now know that. And that also helps her to know, okay, so this means that he’s in the active alert stage and is becoming over stimulated. Or this means that he’s in the calm alert stage and wants to be stimulated, or this means that he wants to actually go to sleep, or this means that he’s hungry. So, kind of creating almost four categories of signals; so tired, hungry, calm alert, which means I want to be stimulated and active alert, which means I’m over stimulated. And then giving her signal for each of them, and then what she must do. So if he’s in the active alert stage and he looks like he’s over stimulated, then take him for a walk in the garden or wonder if it’s time for sleep. You know, so just giving her kind of the things that—the checklist you’d be going through with an access signals so that she can short circuit that learning.
Cass: Yeah, definitely. And we’ve been doing the note. I’d say I’m very excited about when the multi-user comes in because you know, even when I wasn’t there, I was wondering sort of if he’s had a sleep or when I was on my way home, I was thinking is I wonder what is it that I’m walking into and you sort of….There’s quite a lot of catching up to do either when she takes over or when you take over again. And so, it would be really great when it’s on the multi-user on the app, just there for you to see.
Meg: Yeah, definitely, we’re going to be working that in now.
Meg: What else went on for you this week, Cass?
Cass: Well, really the main thing was around, oh, we’ve started sleep coaching. We’ve sort of been doing it a little bit, but we decided because of this four month regression that he had been having, we felt it really was time that we started upping the ante, I guess. So, yeah, we’ve been doing, when he goes to bed, we’ve been making sure that he is being put down really awake. So if he starts to get drowsy on the bottle, we’ve stopped feeding. We’ve actually put him down to wake himself up fully. And then we started feeding again, if he wants it, great, if he doesn’t, he gets put down. And he has actually, now in the evenings, he puts himself to sleep. It took, I think the first day took about an hour of going, you know, in and out and reassuring him and letting him know we were both there and giving him a cuddle and then putting our hand on him and all of the things, giving him a little kiss and whispering in his ear, or whatever works. And then now we can just put him down. He might coo a little bit before he goes, but eventually he’ll put himself to sleep and we have no problem. That is in the evening. And I think a huge part of that is the full routine, you know?
Cass: And we’ve implemented that from very early on. So he really knows, okay, this is what’s supposed to happen now where we are struggling, and we are looking to sort of up the ante in terms of focusing more on it next week. And my husband’s going to work from home so that he can help support. But is in the daytime, for his daytime sleeps, he’s not going down as easily. In fact he’s going down, it’s harder to get him down now than it was a couple of weeks ago. And so I just wondered if you had any tips for the daytime piece where there isn’t that full routine just before that he’s used to with his bath and bed and everything.
Meg: Yeah. So it’s great that you’ve started with the evening routine, because he now knows what it means when you put him down. So even though you’ve had that whole lead up the last little bit, he’s just learned how to do that. And just to talk about that before we go onto the day piece. I think it is worth starting with the evening for exactly the reason that you’ve said that you’ve got a whole builder. The second thing is, you know, lot of moms are kind of thinking, can I do this at four months? Is this controlled crying? Is this controversial? You know, is this sleep training and will it be damaging for my baby?
And I think what’s very important to note is a couple of things that you’ve said, number one is that you have taken care of its basic needs. And so, that you’ve across all, across everything, creating sleep routine, day routine plus bedtime routine. You’ve done all of that. So it’s very important where you talk about sleep coaching that you know that you’ve ticked every box. And in my sleep course, which is available on the app in there, we actually go through nine steps before we get to sleep coaching and you need to tick all those boxes. And I know because you and I have spoken every week that you’ve been doing that, so that’s step number one.
Step number two, is that you have to put them down drowsy, but awake and then walk out and you know, it’s that signaling that you’re going down now and I’m walking out that is actually quite important because it fixes them up for the expectations of, okay, so I’m going to be able to do it on my own. And you will find probably in the next week that when you do that, he won’t then squawk, he’d actually just coo and then go off to sleep. So that’s the second step.
And then the third step, which is part of this four month old sleep coaching that you’re talking about is being very much readily available to do a lot of soothing. So it’s not abandoning him to do it himself, it’s supporting him. And he will be doing some crying because you know, he’s learning a new skill, but you’re there with him. And as you said, you’re patting and so on. So I think that that’s important. And then the picking up, sometimes if the crying gets to a point where you can see he’s distressed, it’s the picking up and reset. So that’s spot on.
So transferring it across to the day sleeps, once he’s getting the evenings I would do exactly the same thing. Importantly, at four months I would watch the awake-times quite carefully. Is he on about an hour and a half from being awake to going to sleep?
Cass: He is on an hour and a half, yes. Sometimes he just won’t go down after an hour and a half, but I’m trying to stick with it this morning. It took me two hours to get him down after I’d started trying, which was at an hour and 15 minutes. And so that was pretty challenging.
Meg: That for first sleep or second sleep?
Cass: That was for his first sleep.
Meg: Okay, that’s interesting because usually the first sleep is the one that’s the easiest to work with. So the first sleep’s usually the one where they will drop off at four months, it will be an hour and a half. So try and stick to the awake-times and then do exactly what you’re doing for the evenings. You know, where you’ve kind of put him down, take him to the room 15 minutes early, which is exactly what you did are in 15 close the blinds, make sure the room’s really dark. And some people talk about differentiating day and night and having them sleep in light rooms during the day. I don’t agree with that, I think they need all the help they can get. So reenacting that kind of sleep space is important. So you could put him in his little sleeping bag. If he’s in a sleeping bag already, you can use a weighted little blanket, if you’re using a weighted blanket, you can use white noise and do everything as you would do it in the evening, except instead of the hour set up and bed routine, you just do 15 minutes.
Cass: Okay. And so you mentioned about the sleeping bag. He is in slightly warmer clothes in the daytime because he’s not wearing a sleeping bag all through the day. So my concern around putting him in a sleeping bag is that he might get a bit too warm. Is it okay if he doesn’t have that sleeping bag or is that quite a key sleep association?
Meg: No, it’s not such a key sleep association. It’s definitely one of the ones that is lighter. I personally did do it for all my kids. I did it for every single sleep so that they really knew that it was always kind of happening the same way, but it’s not essential because they’re not going to get cold in the day like they do potentially the middle of the night. So yeah, that an optional, I would say the white noise is not an optional, so definitely use the white noise exactly as you would in the evening.
Cass: Yeah, we’ve been using that, but in the daytime, what we have been using, and I don’t know whether this is the right thing, is in the day he’s got a cot mobile that is just above his cot, which has a little tune and things go around and only lasts about one minute and then it’s just above him. But I didn’t know initially that worked really well, but now it doesn’t seem to be making a difference. Is that causing too much stimulation?
Meg: Yeah, I would remove that. I’m not a big fan of cot mobiles over the cots. I think that they’re basically over the changing bet. And particularly that feeding hiccup that he went through, I think a lot of that had to do with distractibility and that they start to stimulate themselves. And I think it’s the same for a cot mobile. I think, you know, rather have no toys, no play things, no stimulation in the cot space if possible.
Cass: Okay. And then should I be doing a little routine, like with a story every time or just try and keep it very short, very quick. So take them up, turn the down, you know, close the curtains. And then go to give him a bit of a cuddle and a kiss and put him down or is that sort of whole drawing it out, giving a story and that sort of thing is that advisable?
Meg: No. So you don’t have to do that, and particularly not because you haven’t got the whole hour bed time routine, so you really don’t want them to be any more stimulated or have anything going down. So for day sleeps, it’s very much just a business affair. You take them to the room, make the room dark, give them the feed if a feed time is due and then kind of pop them down in their sleeping bag or knocked with the white noise and then walk out and then come back and pop your hand back on him if he needs you to settle him and then just sit with him until he falls asleep.
Cass: Okay. And actually, that’s an interesting thing you mentioned with the feeding because sometimes he needs a feed before, sometimes he doesn’t. And I hear the word consistency is key for these routines. And that obviously means sometimes he’s getting feed sometimes he is not, would that be confusing for him? And should we try and avoid that kind of mix up or that’s not too much of a problem?
Meg: It’s not too much of a problem as long as he’s doing the last little bit himself. So if he, say for instance, does sometimes have a feed immediately before, just make sure it’s not a feed that’s directly associated. So it’s more of a feed, he wakes up, eyes wide open, you know, looks around and he goes down awake that’s what’s important, because you won’t always get that right.
Cass: Possibly feed him outside of the dark room so that’s not associated with that day put…
Cass: Okay, cool. If he’s taking, because what we’re having in the moment, he’s taking quite a while to go down to the point where sometimes he doesn’t need a feed before , but he’s taking quite a while to go down, so it might be an hour and the feed’s coming up. So then I think, okay, he’s actually going to be too hungry to go down now, but I’m worried about stopping the whole routine mid-situation. How’s best to approach that?
Meg: So, okay. That’s a really good question and a question that’s very common. So what is his space between feeds that you’re doing now? Is it about three to three and a half?
Cass: Yeah. It’s about three and a half hours. Sometimes three hours, 45.
Meg: Okay. So my suggestion is that if it is less than three hours, then the sleep takes precedent. But if it’s more than three hours, so let’s say three hours 15 and the sleep is due, then I would actually give a feed. So you kind of use a three hour space, which is about half an hour before he should be needing his feed as the cause time. So anything before three hours since the last feed, if it’s time for asleep, then asleep is a priority and anything after three hours, like as I said, three hours 15, I would actually do a feed then.
Cass: Okay, perfect. The final thing was, because for example, last night this morning it did take two hours. He had his vaccinations yesterday, so I think that was playing a bit of a part. It was a bit of an anomaly, but I didn’t know. I got to the point where he was so tired and I thought the priority now is actually that you get sleep. Not that we continue with this process, but I didn’t know. And it sounds an awful thing to say, I think it’s a, you know, I’ve heard people say, oh, but you don’t want to let them win because then they think if I keep crying, eventually mom will pick me up and cuddle me to sleep or put me in the pram, and we’ll go for a walk or whatever it might be. What’s that balance of teaching them, you’ve got to do this by yourself, but not letting them sort of just get to the point of no return.
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Meg: So remember he’s still very little, so I would not let it go more than 45 minutes of you working to get him to sleep. And then what I would do is I would go sleep his keen, and pop him in the pram or a carrier and then he will fall asleep and then just go back to the right principle the next time. You’re not going to wreck it completely just on a once off. And sometimes something’s happened to that last awake time that you just couldn’t predict for, you know, his he kind of over stimulated or his nappy was just uncomfortable that day or he’s just somehow…? You know, we have off days, babies have off days. And so yeah, be flexible at this stage. And so then in that case, when he’s been going for 45 minutes, I would just pop him in a carrier or sling and pop him, you know, get him to sleep that way.
Cass: Okay. Yeah, because as soon as I was picking him up earlier, he was grinning away and really happy, which made me think you are fine.
Cass: But he just wasn’t wanting to be put down and I think vaccinations played a part in that
Meg: Would’ve played a part for sure, absolutely. Yeah, and Cass tell me, I’ve been very interested to, I’ve been thinking about products and I’ve actually been asked about products and layer lists and what are absolute essentials for babies. And I thought this would be quite a nice opportunity for you to mention some of the things that you’ve used over the last four months that you think that those first four months of life really are important for a mom to get. And then I’ll just give a little bit of input on what it is that you’ve bought and the principles there.
Cass: Yeah. So, one of the things that I actually really battled with, whether I would get one or not was a sleepy head. I know that they are not actually advised. I think the certainly midwives don’t necessarily love sleepy heads in a similar way to cot bumpers, but we ended up getting one in the end, it’s been a godsend. We watched him very carefully with it until he was older. You know, he didn’t sleep at night with it when he was very young, it was only in the day where we were there and present and could see him. But it’s such a useful piece just to be able to put him down. I know they grow out of Moses baskets quite quickly, so this has been something he’s still able to go down in it and it’s just gives him that little bit of comfort and it’s so easy and portable. It’s been a godsend for us.
Meg: So, let’s talk about that because it is an extremely controversial item of kit for new babies. And for the context for people who don’t know sleepy heads, they’re otherwise known as a duckoo-tot, or they are other versions of it, like the nature-one cushion and basically it’s a sleep insert that creates somewhat of a little barrier or cocoon for babies to sleep in. And you know, I think the principle is that they really do help. There’s absolutely no question. And you know, for me, the back to sleep campaign, along with the SIDS campaign of having absolutely clinical sleep space is of course the advised and that’s what the American Association of Pediatrics advises and that’s why your clinic sisters or health visitors will tell you absolutely no items inside the cot with your baby because of the risk of suffocation.
But having said that, it’s such a clinical space for babies to sleep flat on their back on a mattress with absolutely nothing around them; and so from a sensory perspective, I can understand why they work and why parents use them. And I certainly used a nurture one cushion with my babies. So I do use them. I do think that you do have to be alert and aware. So the risk doesn’t disappear at four months, it’s much closer to a year. So there is always that risk, and it’s just being very conscious about that. And I think the main thing, and this is something for you to bear in mind because this is what you’re about to hit now, is that once they start rolling, the risk is when it’s really increases. Before that, babies are pretty much laying in the position you put them down on, they’re not moving all over the place. And so when you put your baby on your back in a sleepy head, they’ll stay there.
The problem is, and especially in the context of Max now starting to roll, is that it won’t be long before he rolls off over the side of it and then can put it out to his face and that’s where your risk comes. So the principle generally is that as soon as they’re rolling and moving around, you need to move them off that. And in theory, they should then be able to move themself into a position where they’ll be comfortable to sleep. So I think it’s fine, and I certainly agree with you that it’s something that I do recommend, but, having said that, I like parents to go in eyes wide open as they make these decisions, because it does pose a little bit of a citrus. And then, if I were you, just starting to watch him now as he starts to roll and decide when it is that you’re going to need to get rid of that, and that of course brings the second problem in the equation. And that is that when you move out of it, then you know, he won’t sleep as well for a couple of nights because he’s used to sleeping on it.
Cass: Yeah. I act actually put it in the cupboard this morning and said, okay, we’re just going to try and get rid of this now because for exactly that reason. And also, I just think it was useful for Max because he didn’t like being swaddled, but it provided that extra sort of, bit of comfort. But we would be weaning off swaddling around now if he….
Cass: Yeah. So I sort of feel that now’s the time for him to be a big boy and sleep without his sleepy head.
Meg: Yeah, absolutely. But I agree with you. It’s a very useful item. I really do like that containment that it creates. And then we’ve got time for one more.
Cass: Yeah. So, okay, staying on the theme of sleep, I’ve got loads, but if we’re staying on the theme of sleep, as part of the bedtime routine, he actually has a rotating star nightlight. And we put him on his changing mat to get him changed just before his bath with that on and from day one, he has absolutely loved that and it’s made him so calm. There’s different colored lights, so we always have the red because I read somewhere that the blue light isn’t great if you’re wanting them to go to sleep. So we always have the red light on. And he also has that. We went through a period, which we spoke about on the podcast where he wasn’t very….He would start screaming at bedtime when daddy was feeding him. And actually we put the lights on for feeding and he just fed really well, because he just sort of was watching these and he just finds it so calming
Cass: Yeah. And the first time we put it on, I loved watching his reaction to them. He just was a face of absolute wonder. And so it’s been a really useful tool when we just need to calm him down. You know, we just turn all the lights out and he just watches his stars, but also he just absolutely loves it, loves it. And so it’s been a really part of bedtime routine.
Meg: Yeah, that’s lovely. And I think you’re right, keeping it on a red light is good. And it also, for other moms listening, baby personalities will play a part. So some of them will actually become more stimulated by that, and it won’t work well for bed time. In Max’s case who is a settle baby and maybe a bit of a social butterfly. It works very well for him, so that’s excellent.
Cass: Yeah. So those are two for now.
Meg: Brilliant. Well, I think we’re going to try and finish off every podcast with your products because I know that these are fabulous for other mums to hear about, but Cass, thank you so much, really, really super to hear his news this week. And I’m so happy that your feeding has settled and I’m sure that next week his weight gain is going to be good.
Cass: Yes, I’ll let you know. Yeah, thank you so much, Meg.
Meg: Thanks Cass. Okay, cheers.
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